Listening to the radio earlier in the week, I chanced on reports of gift giving from Angelina Jolie to her husband, Brad Pitt. They are both rather rich, and frankly could buy anything they might need – or even want – themselves, but I suppose the exchanging of gifts is an important piece of human social bonding. I would have thought a small token would suffice, but apparently not.
For his 50th, apparently Mr Pitt is to receive (or perhaps already has) a heart-shaped island from his wife. All I could think was that this would be a nightmare to wrap and then a pain to maintain going forward. Apparently, for his 48th his partner bought him a waterfall so that he could build a home above it which would constantly resound to the noise of rushing water: I presume wrapping this was entirely impossible. I can only hope that the house has plenty of bathrooms as the sound of constant rushing water is no friend to the bladder. My 48th is not far away, and I would like to make clear now that I will not welcome the gift of any significant geographical or geomorphological features – despite my love of geomorphology.
Luckily this is unlikely, as my family operates a system for both birthdays and Christmas where the potential recipient is required to provide a list of presents that might meet with some degree of approbation if received. Obtaining these lists is usually difficult and for the upcoming festive season I may yet have to resort to thumbscrews. Basically, with the honourable exception of my nephew (who has youth on his side), we don’t really want anything.
I am reasonably well-paid, though nowhere near the level of a half-decent footballer, banker or Hollywood star, and have for some time failed to spend my salary during the year. Whilst there are many things which I can’t afford to do, none of them are a terribly high priority in my life. Perhaps if the human lifespan were much greater I’d get around to owning a yacht, buying a pointlessly fast car or flying first class round the world (to pluck but three examples from the air) – but I find there are plenty of much cheaper sources of fun and/or enlightenment which remain unattempted to try first. I’m also trying not to acquire new stuff that needs to be stored – though my recent house move indicated that I am not quite as good at this as I liked to imagine. Supporting the arts and eating out both work well as I only have to store the memories. However, I only have the energy to do so much – so I’m now trying to increase the range of charities I support as well, particularly as successive governments seem to be leaving more and more things I think of as important to the vagaries of charitable donation for their continued existence.
It is often said that the best things in life are free, which is probably not entirely true and almost certainly requires you to ignore some element of sunk cost. However, many pleasures can be very cheap at the time of experience. This past Sunday, I decided to attempt a whole new (to me, not the world) piece of music via the medium of song. My chosen piece was “Arm, Arm, ye brave!” from Mr Handel’s oratorio Judas Maccabeus. Despite my stumbling (née bumbling) attempts to sing the notes while accompanying myself with only the melody line on the old Joanna this was a glorious experience (though anyone who overheard it would probably have taken a very different view). This was free (well, I already had the music, piano and voice) and way better than any number of luxury yachts. Plus, to paraphrase D:Ream, its performance can only get better!
In summary, I shall continue to eschew the national lottery – this both saves me money on a weekly basis and significantly reduces the risk that extreme wealth will ever be thrust upon me.